I’ve decided that every now and then I will make a Woman Crush Wednesday post and recognize an inspirational woman. Starting this week.
On October 9th, 2012, Pakastani teenager Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on her way home from school. She was targeted by the Taliban for speaking out against their oppression. The terrorist group was doing everything possible to stop education in the Middle East. After learning of her blog posts, public statements, and encouragement to her peers to persist in getting an education despite the Taliban’s efforts, they came to a unanimous agreement to kill her. Luckily, Malala survived. After months in the hospital and rehabilitation, she is fully functioning and healthy, and still continues her studies. “They thought that the bullets would silence us,” Malala said in a speech at the United Nations. “But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage [were] born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”
Getting an education is a privilege. Many countries lack a well-developed education system, and some don’t have one at all. And there are countries like those in the Middle East in which people are literally dying to be educated. Education is unappreciated in our nation; kids peel themselves out of bed at the last minute, go to school, and do the minimum effort required to pass their classes, usually all with a bad attitude. It’s a rare thing to see students get excited about learning. Why is it that so many people have to be forced to go to school, but after being shot for pursuing education, Malala only wants it more?
We’re required to go to school in the United States. We can choose to drop out at a certain age, but almost all employers require a high school diploma in order to even consider hiring someone. Public schools are completely free to attend, and good grades almost guarantee scholarships to go to college. The government provides an education system that sets children up to succeed. So why do so many people make the decision to do nothing with their lives? We’re forced to go to school. There’s a reason why the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” has become a cliche. It’s true. When people are forced to do something, they reject it. People like Malala in places like the Middle East desire an education so much because it’s a rare thing to have.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I took advanced geometry from a man named Charles Young. I was a straight A student throughout my whole academic career until that year; my report card came back with a C. I opened the envelope and there it was. Like a horrible, disgusting, oozing blemish on an otherwise clear complexion. I started going to tutoring the very next day. I completely immersed myself in angles and polygons. During one particularly difficult tutoring session, I had a meltdown. I wasn’t understanding. I even told Mr. Young that I had no desire whatsoever to be architect, an engineer, or an astronomer, so I didn’t see the point in having to learn geometry. After getting me to calm down, Mr. Young explained to me that it wasn’t necessarily the content of the subject that mattered. The main point in requiring students to take strenuous math courses is not to ensure that we will never ever forget the midpoint equation or how to find the area of a polygon. The point is to teach students how to think logically. He explained that I was focusing too much on the final answer and not enough on how to get it. What steps should I take to get to the solution of this problem? According to cheesy, over-enthusiastic, but sweet Mr. Young, that very question is the equation of life. In order to solve any problem, you must think logically. There is a deeper point in taking certain subject than just to learn the content. Education is not just mastering a set of skills that will earn you a living. Education is accumulating life skills.
If I go through grade school, college, and graduate school finishing all after only putting forth the effort that was required to be promoted to the next step, am I educated? Society would say yes, because all that matters is that I finished. But that’s not all it takes. Just going through the motions is not good enough. As Americans, we’ve developed the habit of rushing through things to get finished. I looked for the easiest ways to solve math problems, but that was the wrong way to do it. The right way was to learn the necessary steps. If I don’t see the value in learning, I won’t be educated. I have to want it. To get an education, I must keep an insatiable thirst for knowledge and experience. I must keep a burning desire deep within me to know more, to do more, and to be more.
Malala referenced the famous quote, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” in her speech. She added that the Taliban is against schooling because they fear the power of educated people, because they themselves are uneducated. Education neutralizes hate. People fear and hate what they are unsure of. I’m well aware that I will probably never live to see a world of peace, and it saddens me. However, education can bridge the gap between peacefulness and hatred. Malala knows that education is the best hope for a peaceful world. The more educated a person is, the more they will question what is right and what is wrong, and consider the most logical way to make things better.
To be educated is to be compassionate towards all people. To be educated is to have empathy. To be educated is to speak only words of encouragement. To be educated is to act rationally. To be educated is to know how to tactfully stand up for what I believe in. To be educated is to want to learn about different cultures of the world, and respect other people’s beliefs. To be educated is to be mindful of the environment. To be educated is to always want to know more. To be educated is to always use my abilities to contribute to the greater good. To be educated is to be the best I can possibly be in every aspect of my life, and to always strive to be even more.